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LifeLines: Captain of the Sinking Ship

C. Saphir

I couldn’t believe it — the boat was sinking! “Everybody out of the boat!” I commanded. “We’re going to have to swim to shore”

Thursday, October 27, 2016

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M y boating hobby started over 40 years ago, when I was in my 20s. My first boat I actually won in a raffle at our local Pace warehouse store. After making my purchase, I scrawled my name on a raffle entry blank and threw it into the fishbowl at the checkout. Next thing I knew, I was the proud owner of a little sailboat, which we kept outside in the backyard. Come summertime, we tied the sailboat to the top of the car and drove to a state park about 45 miles away to take it out on the water.

That first sailboat was destroyed after about 15 years, when a tree fell on it and cracked it in half. By then, I was an experienced boater, and I purchased a new, better sailboat to use during the summer. Over the years, I upgraded to faster sailboats, and bought a canoe.

About four years ago, I decided the time had come to buy a real motorboat. I found a 50-year-old, 14-foot-long boat that was in excellent condition, and paid about $900 for it. We used the boat about 10 or 15 times each summer, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The boat did break down a few times, but the fixes were easy and inexpensive.

Once, the engine conked out in the middle of Chesapeake Bay. The custom among motor boaters is to wave to every boater you meet. When I broke down on the water, I discovered why. In the society of boaters, it is understood that you help each other when there’s trouble. After about three minutes of rocking in the waves, a boat approached, and its owner tried to help me get my engine started. When those efforts failed, he offered to tow me three miles to where my trailer was parked — and refused to accept payment.

A different time, the boat’s engine stalled when I was out on Lake Erie with a full complement of six passengers, including my five-year-old granddaughter Henny, who became frantic and begged me to take her back to shore. Another boater towed us the 500 feet back to the boat ramp. But even after I fixed the boat, Henny wouldn’t go near it.

That was two years ago. This past summer, my wife and I invited our son-in-law and daughter to join us for a few days, with their five children, for a boating vacation in central Pennsylvania. I brought along a canoe, because I figured that four adults and five children was a bit much for my boat, which was designed to hold six passengers. The boat’s maximum capacity was 1,200 pounds, including gas tanks, and I calculated that our entire party squeaked in at just below that weight limit. But still, I didn’t think it was wise to load up the boat to capacity.

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